It's been nearly one year since Sean Kennedy, only 20 years old, was killed in the streets of Greenville, South Carolina simply for being gay. This Friday, May 16th, Sean's Last Wish is holding a candlelight vigil to honor the memory of Sean in Greenville.
Sean's Last Wish is a an organization that Elke Kennedy, Sean's mother, started that seeks to raise awareness of the lack of hate crimes legislation in South Carolina, as well address anti-LGBT violence and fight for fully-inclusive laws. I've had the honor of meeting Elke a few times, since we both serve on the board of the Gay American Heroes Foundation, and hear her speak about her son.
Every time I hear her speak about her son and her loss, I am moved to tears. Her strength is amazing. Her devotion to making sure Sean's memory and legacy lives on is truly awe-inspiring. Read her account of Sean's death and get info on how to support Sean's Last Wish after the jump...
In Elke's own words:
On May 16, 2007, at about 3:45 am, Sean was leaving a local bar in Greenville when a car pulled up beside him, a young man got out of the car, came around the car approached my son and called him fagot and then punched him so hard that it broke his face bones, he fell back and hit the asphalt. This resulted in his brain to be separated from his brain stem and ricochet in his head. Sean never had a chance. Sean's killer got back into the car and left my son dying there.
A little later he left a message on one of the girl's phone, who knew Sean saying: "You tell your fagot friend that when he wakes up he owes me $500 for my broken hand".
Sean knew at an early age that he was different. He did not let others know until he was about 17 years old and in high school. One day, after he had just told a few of his friends that he was gay, he came out of school to find the word "Fag" carved into the side of his truck. He was mad and it shock him up but I think it was then that he decided that he would not live in fear - he was going to live life and be there for others.
After that he told me that he was gay. He said: Mom if you don't want to love me anymore, I'll understand. I told him that there is nothing he could ever do to make me stop loving him.
I can't help but remember my son as a person who had a love for life and people and an irresistible smile to go with his personality. Sean loved everybody regardless of whom or what they believed in or stood for. He never judged but was always there to help people, either by listening or giving them whatever they needed (food, a place to stay, clothes, etc)
After his death I found out just how many people Sean had a positive impact on. There were over 700 people at his memorial service.
He was a leader, kind and non-judging, caring and compassionate and loved by so many. He was happy of who he was and stood up for what he believed in. He had reached all the dreams and hopes this mother could ask for and he accomplished this in only 20 years.
- Elke Kennedy (Sean's Mother)
Elke has devoted her life to helping spread the word about hate crimes. If you can make it to the vigil, I encourage you to go. If not, stop by their website and make a donation or send a note of support to Sean's family.
The vigil will be: May 16, 2008 6:30-8:30p.m. Main Street Plaza (Entrance to Falls Park) Main Street & Camperdown Way Downtown Greenville, SC
I'll leave you with a video tribute created by Sean's family-